These are my daughter, Ioanna’s, hands at three months.
I had meant to share this photo then, along with a post, but life in areas both personal and professional made me decide against it. I had started a teaching certification program while I was pregnant and needed to finish it after Ioanna’s birth. At the same time, Ioanna developed a nasty bout of colic just after she was born. We discovered that she had an intolerance to something in my milk, which put me on a strict diet for a long time. With my daily menu limited to chicken, potatoes, and squash, I couldn’t imagine anyone being interested in following me. There were other, more personal issues, but I won’t get into those here.
Now, at thirteen months, Ioanna’s tummy troubles are over and I have my license to teach English 6-12. Please know that I missed this space and thought of it every day. I’d like to continue blogging about Greek food and, if I may, share some recipes that Ioanna particularly likes. They will be a reference for me, mostly, but I’d also like to do it in hopes of helping other moms who, like me, are sometimes stuck for baby/toddler recipes.
Speaking of Ioanna, here is a picture of her hands today:
These days, Ioanna is most confident with her hands. She uses them to toss my stack of Bon Appetits from our bookshelf onto the living floor. She also finds them quite helpful for eating all manner of edibles and non-edibles but especially green peas. These she balances one by one between her thumb and middle finger until pushes them in her mouth. I wonder how she has the patience for it.
A Greek winter dish that lends itself well to Ioanna’s current love for exercising her digits is a soup called Vrasto, or boiled. Boiled is an accurate name because that’s what the soup is; boiled meat and vegetables with a couple of aromatics. There’s not even any salt, so it’s really the perfect food for a 13-month old. I served Ioanna’s portion without broth and gave her the zucchini, carrots, and beef–all of which I had diced. She enjoyed the soup’s components as finger food and both the vegetables and beef were soft enough for her to mash between her still-molarless gums.
Spyros and I ate the Vrasto as a soup with parboiled rice and Dijon mustard. It was a good, easy family meal, with very little chopping and measurement. It’s one of those dishes that, if you’re a stay-at-home mom, you can prepare in the morning while the baby is content playing by herself on the floor. If you’re back at work or not a parent, it makes a good weekend project. All of the bits: the broth, vegetables, and meat should be stored in separate containers, so that they don’t become mushy.
I hope you’ll give this soup a try and that you’ll give me a try again, too. I realize I abandoned this space and any momentum it had, as well as the efforts of many people who tried to help me. For that I am sorry. Like an old friend I haven’t spoken to in a long time, I hope to pick up with it where I left off with Laurenaki Blogs.
Vrasto- Greek boiled meat soup
4.5 lbs (2 kg) stewing beef, chopped into large pieces
4 carrots, chopped
3 small zucchinis, chopped
1 leek, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
2 small onions, peeled
3 parsley sprigs
3 whole cloves, stuck into one of the onions
10 whole peppercorns
1 cup cooked rice
Put the beef in a large stock pot and cover with cold water. Set the pot over medium heat and skim any foam that rises to the surface until the water reaches a boil.
Add the remaining ingredients.
Cover the pot and simmer over low heat for 1 hour.
After 1 hour, remove the vegetables from the broth and set aside. Cover the pot again and continue simmering the meat for another 1-2 hours, until it softens.
Remove the meat from the broth and set aside, or refrigerate until you’re ready to serve.
*To serve, fill bowls with pieces of beef, vegetables and a couple spoons of rice. Ladle over the hot broth and spoon some Dijon mustard over the beef. Or, if you’re not feeling like soup, serve the meat, vegetables and rice on a plate without the broth. For toddlers, chop the beef and vegetables into small pieces and serve.